The 'civic potential' of students: An investigation of students' civic knowledge and conceptions of active citizenship in five Asian societies

Kui Foon CHOW

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Theses


Much of the research on students' conceptions of citizenship has relied on samples of students from Western societies influenced by liberal democracy. A key focus of this thesis, however, is on Asian students' conception of citizenship, and in particular 'active citizenship'. Do students in selected Asian societies have a shared understanding of 'active citizenship' and how is it related to their civic knowledge proficiency? These questions have guided this thesis and its investigations. This thesis is concerned with two key issues: Asian students' "intention to participate" in civic activities in the future and their civic knowledge proficiency. This study has adopted the conceptual position that students' intention to participate and civic knowledge must be treated cautiously given that the student samples are early adolescents not yet 15 years of age. This thesis provides alternative approach to assessment of the 'civic competence' of such students. This study uses secondary analysis to explore data from the 2009 International Civic and Citizenship Education Study (ICCS) with a particular emphasis on data from Taiwan, Hong Kong, Korea, Indonesia and Thailand involving over 23,000 students. ICCS has reported scale scores representing average student results at the national level. This thesis uses a person-centered rather than a variable-centered approach to data analysis seeking to identify both heterogeneity and homogeneity in the data relating to students' intention to participate and their civic knowledge. It assumes that variability in student responses is an important indicator of student attitudes to and knowledge of civic responsibilities. The results indicated that Asian students' conceptions of active citizenship are not unidimensional and their relationship to civic knowledge varies. Four distinct types of participators were identified: 1) Active Participators: students who are relatively most enthusiastic in participating in various kinds of civic activities with average levels of civic knowledge; 2) Conventional Participators: students who most favour voting and with high levels of civic knowledge although rejecting illegal protest; 3) Radical Participators: students who are generally not certain about any kinds of activities but hold possibilities about them and with the lowest level of civic knowledge; and 4) Minimal Participators: students who are relatively least motivated to participate across various activities with average levels of civic knowledge but are still positive about voting. The proportion of types within each society varied across the five societies. The findings challenge the current literature on students' civic competence, the approach to measurement that underpins it and the theoretical framework that supports it. Rather, students' civic potential is highlighted, person-centered analysis is demonstrated to be a useful tool for analysis of data from large-scale assessments and important issues are raised about the nature and potential of the variety of civic activities that 14 year olds need to understand. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • The Hong Kong Institute of Education
  • KENNEDY, Kerry John 甘國臻, Supervisor
  • MOK, Magdalena Mo Ching, Supervisor
  • WANG, Wen Chung, Supervisor
Award date09 Sept 2013
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • Citizenship -- Asia
  • Theses and Dissertations
  • Thesis (Ph.D.)--The Hong Kong Institute of Education, 2013


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